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EPL: Eden Hazard carries Chelsea past Manchester City

The Blues bounce back thanks to their Belgian maestro!

SNS | New Delhi |

Chelsea got back to winning ways in the English Premier League, edging Manchester City 2-1 in their encounter at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, with Belgian winger Eden Hazard the standout player on the night.

The Blues have long been ahead of the chasing pack, but a home loss against Crystal Palace on the weekend had seen their lead cut short to seven points and another loss could have potentially seen it cut to four.

Antonio Conte knew that a statement was required and brought in Kurt Zouma at the back, moving Cezar Azpilcueta up, which in turn made Pedro a winger rather than a wing back. The 3-4-3 formation remained as the Blues sought to avoid a second successive home defeat.

Pep Guardiola placed Jesus Navas at right back, surprising considering Pablo Zabaleta was available, with club captain Vincent Kompany returning to the starting XI and Fabian Delph was brought in to shore up the midfield.

Chelsea began the first half in the ascendancy and didn't take long to go ahead in the tie.
Azpilcueta’s smart cutback from the right wing was hit first-time by Hazard, but despite the Belgian winger not getting the cleanest of contacts, the ball deceived Willy Caballero in the City goal. Replays suggested Kompany had the slightest of touches which perhaps changed the trajectory of the ball and as a result, Chelsea were 1-0 up after just ten minutes had been played.

City grew into the game, starting to see more possession but they needed a blunder from Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois to get back into the tie. Sergio Aguero attempted to close down Blues back pass to the Belgian custodian, but Courtois had time to pick his pass yet his attempted clearance found David Silva. The Spaniard approached the Chelsea goal quickly and let loose from a narrow angle. While Courtois made the initial save, the rebound fell to Aguero, who tapped home into an empty net in the 26th minute to get level on the night.

The home side didn't take long to restore their lead and it was their turn to get lucky this time.
Fernadinho was drawn in to make a silly challenge on Pedro in the box and as the Spanish winger promptly went down, match referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot without any hesitation. Hazard stepped up to take the penalty and as has been the case on many occasions this season, sought to send the keeper the wrong way. Caballero, however, guessed right and while he made the initial save, Hazard couldn't miss the rebound and Chelsea were back ahead 10 minutes from half-time.

The second half was a period of few chances, with the sides clearly struggling after having played on the weekend. Surprisingly, Hazard was the man who squandered a golden chance to get his hattrick and seal the deal, blazing over after Pedro’s cutback had set him up perfectly.

City had an even better chance in the closing stages but centre back John Stones somehow got under the ball and sent his shot over the goal after Silva’s corner had found him unmarked near the centre of the goal.

With the result, City remain rooted in 4th place and now a 14-point gap has been opened up between them and Chelsea, a statistic which says Guardiola and co’s title challenge is over with just eight games to go in the season.

For Chelsea, it was a perfect riposte after many had been accusing them of taking the foot off the pedal in their loss to Crystal Palace, and while Tottenham beat Swansea 3-1, the fact that Chelsea remain seven points clear puts them in pole position to lift the title.